Battaash has won the past two renewals of the Casumo-sponsored Temple Stakes but a setback during the winter means the brilliant sprinter will not get the chance to become the first three-time winner of the race at Haydock Park on Saturday.
The Group Two contest will naturally be poorer for his absence but, on the plus side, it means we have got a more open renewal with a range of just 3lb separating the five highest-rated runners among the ten entries to stand their ground on Monday.
Lazuli heads the market at a top price of 11-4 and, at first glance, that is perhaps understandable given that the Charlie Appleby-trained gelding is racefit, invariably gives his running and landed the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket last month.
However, there was an element of good fortune about his narrow win at Headquarters – runner-up Came From The Dark had his momentum checked at a crucial stage – and he has a 3lb penalty to shoulder for that victory. In addition, he has looked well served by quick ground and underfoot conditons at Haydock are currently soft, good to soft in places, with a mixture of sunshine and showers forecast this week.
I imagine Quinn would prefer to keep two of the best horses in his yard apart but they are in different ownership and it’s a natural contest for each to tackle. They met twice last season and Quinn’s son and assistant, Sean, confirmed that both are intended runners when contacted by racingtv.com on Monday afternoon.
Watch a replay of last year's Coral Charge. Liberty Beach finished ahead of Lazuli despite being way too keen
Each have an official rating of 109, although they have reached that mark via contrasting routes.
Liberty Beach was a precocious two-year-old who kept up the good work last season by being placed in the King’s Stand Stakes and Prix de l’Abbaye. Keep Busy was inferior as a juvenile but has never stopped improving and her final two runs of last term – when runner-up in the Flying Five and then a close fifth in the Prix de l’Abbaye – represented career-best performances.
Overall, it is Liberty Beach who remains the most seductive and she’s going to carry the bulk of my cash at a general 3-1.
There were few quicker than her as a two-year-old, when her exploits included winning the Molecomb, and several occasions last year she looked as if she still had a bigger performance in her.
The race that sticks in my mind, despite her placed efforts at the highest level, was the Coral Charge at Sandown where the opposition simply could not go quick enough for her. As a consequence, she ended up doing too much, too soon, and was beaten by a fair yardstick in A’Ali, but she still finished nicely ahead of Lazuli.
It’s not out of the question that, with another winter behind her, Liberty Beach goes up another notch this campaign and, encouragingly, she has won first time out in each of her two seasons – including at Haydock last year when she won the Listed Cecil Frail Fillies’ Stakes with something to spare. The flat nature of the Lancashire venue looks ideal for her and she is versatile regards the ground.
Moreover, there lacks like being plenty of pace for her to track with trail-blazers Jabarockie and Que Amoro among the others engaged. The former looks vulnerable stepping out of handicap company, in common with Desert Safari, while the latter’s standout run remains her second in the Nunthorpe. She subsequently finished well adrift of Keep Busy and Liberty Beach at the Curragh and her connections remain convinced she needs a sound surface to be seen to best advantage.
Lady In France and Ubettabelieveit ran well below-par on their respective reappearances, but Keep Busy warrants a small each-way play at 6-1 with William Hill.
Her record when fresh is not so compelling as that of her stablemate and I don’t think she’s got as much raw pace but her continual climb up the ladder makes it hard to ignore her, plus she is in her element on soft ground.
One way or another, I fancy the Quinn camp will be smiling by about 4.15pm.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Temple Stakes
£15 win on Liberty Beach at a general 3-1
£2.50 each-way on Keep Busy at 6-1 with William Hill (three places)
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